November 6, 2017

You don't need a stage to need stage presence

I was recently contacted by a woman who manages a small team of young, inexperienced salespeople. She was primarily concerned with their lack of self-awareness; their behaviors in front of clients and prospects were less-than-stellar.

One person bites their nails in meetings. Another person avoids eye contact. Another is a pen-clicker. And yet another makes elaborate faces when trying to conceal a yawn.

Most of us have habits we're not aware of. That's what makes them habits; the fact that we repeat them and yet are not aware of them!

And taken individually, on occasion, in casual circumstances, these kinds of habits are normal and human. But when you put a group of people together, all of whom are displaying distracting behavior in a professional setting, it can become quite noticeable and can take attention away from where it belongs: on the business at hand.

We tend to talk about stage presence as the way we command a room when we're on a stage or in front of an audience. Stage presence combines charisma, confidence and the ability to captivate your audience. But it's not just for the stage. Or perhaps I should say, "You're always on stage."

Note that the word "presence" is part of "stage presence." Presence means that you are actively and emotionally engaged with the person or people you're talking or meeting with. Presence means you're not in your head, thinking about what's for dinner, or off in la-la land.

You're making eye contact. Your body language shows engagement and connection through nodding, smiling, leaning forward or whatever is your personal style of demonstrating connection.

Stage presence is required ANY time you're part of a meeting or discussion, even when you're not the facilitator. 

Imagine you're one of this small team mentioned above, and you're in a meeting with a prospective client. Your boss is negotiating a contract and the discussion is getting into the details of the scope of the project and the deliverables. But you're mentally in another place, unaware of what's happening in the room - or even with your own body. You're clicking your pen, fidgeting in your chair, and wondering what time the game starts after work.

Your boss turns to you, expecting you to fill in some details that are the purview of your department and expertise. But your brain is only half-focused and you're caught off guard. Of course, you answer the question, but you fumble for the right words and you've missed some of the key issues in the discussion, so you have to ask for clarification. Your boss is frustrated as she repeats what's already been covered.

Now imagine how this conversation would have gone if you were present. You would be absorbed in the conversation, your mind already putting together the pieces that you're responsible for. When it's time for you to contribute to the conversation, you're ready. You're on fire, in fact, because you know exactly what's needed from you, and you deliver. Your boss seamlessly picks up where she left off and the negotiation continues. There's a big "thank you" waiting at the end of the meeting, for your timely and thoughtful contribution.

This is the "presence" part of "stage presence," but the "stage" piece applies here as well. When you're in a meeting, you are absolutely on stage. The prospect or client is paying attention. Are you respectful? Are you pleasant? Are you helpful? Are you part of the collaboration? Are you bringing a positive energy to the room? Are you sitting upright, leaning in, part of the team?

Or are you disengaged, restless, bored, shifty, slouchy, looking at your hands or gazing out the window?

Surprise! You're not invisible! Your behavior and demeanor is noticed and noted. It may not make or break the sale, but you sure don't impress anyone as a team player. And you certainly don't inspire your boss to give you more responsibility or promote you.

Stage presence is required whether or not you're on stage, whether you're speaking to one person, five people or 50 people, whether you're running the meeting or in the background. We see you. We observe you. We remember you.

You can be remembered for being that fidgety guy with the pen or you can be remembered for being the guy with the great ideas. It's up to you!

Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

September 24, 2017

Communication requires presence: Why I won't have a meeting with you while driving

For those of you who are of the opinion that talking on the phone while driving (sometimes with yelling or fighting kids in the back seat) makes more effective or productive use of your time, I doubt you'll change your habits after this one post.

But let me share why you'll rarely have a conversation with me while I'm driving—especially a business meeting.

Have you ever been in a meeting listening to someone giving a report, or at home listening to your partner share about their day, and suddenly five minutes have passed and you have no idea what the other person has said? Your mind wandered... to what's for dinner, to the dry cleaning you need to pick up before the shop closes, to that ice cream in the freezer that's calling your name.

Now recall past driving trips. Have you ever been going somewhere, and maybe because it's a regular route that you drive often or every day, you suddenly arrive at your destination completely unaware of what happened along the way? Have you ever realized, a moment after the fact, that you've run a stop sign or didn't see a car next to you as you changed lanes?

Clearly, we are not always mentally present. It's easy to get drawn into what's going on in our heads and miss what's going on around us, even when sitting and facing another person in conversation (or an audience if you're a speaker).

When we're not present, we aren't focused. We may listen, but we don't hear. We see, but don't pay attention. We're distracted. Life passes us by.

According to the The National Transportation Safety Board, "Nearly 10 percent of traffic deaths involve distracted drivers. That’s about 4,000 deaths that are completely preventable, that never have to happen."

And according to the DMV, the reason texting and driving is so dangerous is that it incorporates all aspects of distracted driving:
"Visual: Takes your eyes off the road.
Manual: Takes your hands off the steering wheel.
Cognitive: Takes your focus away from safe driving."
This is not an article about safe driving. But what the research points out is that talking on the phone (and eating, putting on makeup, dealing with kids in the back seat) is enough of a distraction to cause many car accidents each year. If talking on the phone is a distraction from safe driving, is it safe to say that driving is also a distraction from communication? We think we can do both, but studies show that we can't. We all think we're good at multitasking, but research shows that this is a myth. According to Psychology Today:
"Much recent neuroscience research tells us that the brain doesn’t really do tasks simultaneously, as we thought (hoped) it might. In fact, we just switch tasks quickly. Each time we move from hearing music to writing a text or talking to someone, there is a stop/start process that goes on in the brain.
That start/stop/start process is rough on us: rather than saving time, it costs time (even very small micro seconds), it’s less efficient, we make more mistakes, and over time it can be energy sapping."
(By the way, you may wonder if talking to passengers in your car is as risky as talking on the phone. This infographic explains why it's not.)

Back to the value of presence to communication:

One of the most basic things I work on with my clients is being present with their audiences. If a speaker is not present with their audience, meaning focused, in the moment, paying attention to what's happening in the room, noticing the energy, etc., it means they are not connecting. If a speaker is not connecting emotionally with their audience, then they are creating a distance or a barrier, which leads to less engagement and a sense that the speaker is not accessible or approachable.
“When the mind is not present, we look and do not see; we hear and do not understand; we eat and do not know the taste of what we eat.” ~ Confucius, The Great Learning
The reason I don't have business meetings while driving is that I know I can't focus on either one properly. If I focus on driving, I can't focus on the conversation. If I focus on the conversation, I'm not focused on driving. How will I remember what we spoke about if I can barely focus on the conversation in the first place?

To me, any conversation while driving is a waste of time and energy, because I am not present with the other person. It's hard enough for me to be present during a conversation with my husband while I'm sitting two feet away from him on the couch. How present can I be with a person whose face I can't see, while I'm on the phone, while I'm driving, and while I'm trying not to run over a pedestrian or run a red light? Not to mention the three times the signal drops while going over a mountain or through a tunnel, requiring us to re-start the call several times.

You may think you're present. You may think you're good at multitasking. Or maybe you just don't think you have any other time in the day to make this call. I'm very aware of my cognitive limitations while trying to multitask, so I won't have a meeting with you while I'm driving, and I prefer not to attempt to have a meeting with you while you're driving.

I'm not as good at being present as I would like to be, but having a conversation in the car is just flat-out saying, "I don't really care about being present for you," and I'd like to at least try harder than that.

Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

September 2, 2017

10 reasons to join the Presenting for Humans Success Circle

Are you thinking about joining the Presenting for Humans Success Circle, but not sure if it's right for you?

Perhaps I can help you decide with these ten reasons I think the program is worth joining!

1. Author-led discussion: Most book clubs and study groups are not led by the author, the person who knows more than anyone else about the process for the book, the premise of the book, the core message, and the whys, whats and hows of the book. PFH Success Circle has me, the author, leading discussion, answering questions, and coaching you along the way!

2. Practical outcomes: This is a program to help you put the concepts in the book into practice. Sure, you could read the book on your own, but we all know how much better we are at implementing (and avoiding procrastination) when we have accountability partners! Your goals will included finishing the week's reading assignment before our live call, and coming ready to review what you read and to compare notes with your fellow participants.

3. Making connections with your fellow program members: A shared love of reading is already a great connection point among you, but your shared interest in speaking adds another level of depth to your connections. It's a great online networking opportunity (when you join the Facebook group, especially) for meeting like-minded individuals—no matter where you live in the world.

4. The difference between reading a book alone and reading as a group is huge: Reading a book and discussing it as a group opens your mind to ideas you might not have considered, conclusions you might not have come to, and perspectives you might not have gained. Reading and discussing as a group supercharges your learning and absorption of concepts and takes you in entirely new directions.

5. Practice and grow your communication skills: Reading a book about public speaking is one thing, but actually formulating ideas and sharing them with the group, defending your opinions, speaking up for your beliefs, and persuading others to see your perspective—tactfully and respectfully—are all valuable opportunities to enhance your own communication skills as well as to help you retain information better and reinforce your learning.

6. It's virtual: I get that the wine, snacks and personal interaction are big draws for in-person book clubs. But not everyone has the time (or calorie allowance) for that. You can stay at your desk at work or (if you're like me) on the couch in your pajamas. There's no judgement! Join the meeting from wherever you are, and even if you can't join live, it will be recorded so you won't miss a thing. You can leave your comments in the Facebook group at any time—whether you're a night owl or an early bird, whether you're in Australia or Africa. (Feel free to bring your own wine...)

7. And because it's virtual, you choose your own method of interaction: You can exclusively stick to the Facebook group if you prefer to write out your thoughts. You can come to the live calls, participate with the other members and get your questions answered on the spot by moi. You can shoot video sharing your comments and upload to Facebook. Or you can do any combination of these, or whatever else you think of! (Want to make a pic collage or Pinterest board with public speaking memes? Go ahead!)

8. You will learn to be a better speaker: Let's not forget that there's just one book and one topic here. If you want to learn to be a better speaker, you've come to the right place. We will be 100% laser-focused on speaking. Your questions about speaking will be answered, your knowledge will grow, your opportunities to improve will expand. Period.

9. It's affordable: If private coaching isn’t an option for you right now, the PFH Success Circle is the next best thing with laser coaching and a private Facebook group—where I'm very active—and the only way to work with me for under $800.

10. It's a short time commitment: The program starts in September and ends in October. There are five weekly calls (but if you can't make it live, they'll be recorded). The reading is light: two chapters a week. We'll accomplish a lot in this short time frame, but it's not going to take months of your life to complete or hours a week of homework.

Each week, participants will read assigned chapters, do personal exploration and reflection, and return to the group for follow-up, discussion, and laser coaching on the concepts learned. The interactive author-led virtual sessions will span five weeks in September and October.

PFH Success Circle includes:

  • A signed hard copy of the book (if you register by 4:00 p.m. PDT on Saturday, 9/2!)
  • Five live coaching calls focused on action-taking and implementation of the main principles in the book
  • Worksheets and handouts to help you integrate the ideas we’re discussing
  • Recordings of all the calls
  • A private Facebook group for discussion, support, encouragement and resources

Just think: You can start and finish a book during this five week program! You can gain some new perspective on public speaking. You can have fun and meet new friends.

The program starts Thursday, September 7. Register here.

Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

July 28, 2017

Why you need to take every speaking opportunity

I forgot my stuff.

I had a workshop Friday morning, and I thought I was ready, but I wasn't.

I had finished my slides, I had finished my notes, I had printed my handouts.

I always have my tools in my bag, like my presentation remote, my VGA-to-USB adapter cable, markers and other items I take to my presentations. Except I didn't.

I drove 45 minutes from Ojai to Santa Barbara, feeling relaxed and confident. The topic wasn't new; it's a module that I usually teach as part of my Shake Up Your Speaking retreat. But for the first time, I was offering it as a stand-alone training.

I got to the venue and immediately started setting up. In the process of connecting my computer to the projector, I realized I had left my cable in my other presentation bag. And then I discovered that my remote was missing. I could envision in my mind exactly where it was: sitting on my desk, with a fresh battery installed. I borrowed a remote from my host, then miraculously spotted an HDMI adapter in the projector cart, and continued hooking up my presentation (at least I arrived early enough to troubleshoot).

It was time to begin, after an opening exercise and some announcements. I was introduced to the group and started my presentation. As I started speaking, I came to the slow realization that my notes looked nothing like the slides I was clicking through. I flashed back to my preparation and remembered that I had initially created a completely different presentation days earlier, then had changed my mind and replaced it with the current presentation. Unfortunately, with several files in the same folder, I had printed out the notes for the original presentation, not the one I was currently delivering.

Always a fan of transparency in my presentations, I openly shared with the group that I had brought the wrong notes, and quickly moved them to a side table. Had a brief laugh about my forgetfulness, and continued on.

At this point, having forgotten so many of my tools, and having brought the completely wrong notes, you might think that I would be in a panic and completely discombobulated.

But here's the thing: I've been presenting for 25 years. I remember walking into a classroom in the mid-90s, having completely forgotten my notes, and recreating them from scratch on a blank piece of paper provided by the teacher, just so I'd have something to call on if necessary. That was then; this is now.

I was able to flexibly adapt to my circumstances because I have done literally hundreds of presentations over 25 years.

Did I panic when I realized that I had left my tools in the other bag? Sure! And when I had the realization that my notes were totally wrong and that there was no way to make them work? Oh yes.

But because I have experience, and because I've been through many awkward and uncomfortable situations over the years, I was able to resume my presentation smoothly and make it work. And on top of that, I was able to use my own mishap as a teaching moment for the participants - one of my favorite ways of teaching!

Are you avoiding presenting because you fear a situation like this? Just think how fantastic it'll be, three or 10 or 20 years from now when, because you chose to take these speaking engagements, you are now prepared for ANYTHING.

It's your time now to get speaking engagements on your calendar. It's your time now, to say YES to speaking opportunities. Getting as much experience as possible is long-term protection against the insecurities and discomfort of making mistakes. You learn to deal with the unexpected and the unknown. You become comfortable with uncertainty.

And let me be very clear: Without this kind of experience, you will NOT become comfortable with uncertainty. You will never get used to being caught off guard and you'll never get used to getting out of your comfort zone.

So please. Take every speaking engagement that comes your way. Make engagements happen if they're not just falling into your lap. Find ways to get out there, to get in front of audiences, and to get practice.

Because days like last Friday will happen to you. And you can panic, freak out, and throw off your whole rhythm - taking the audience down with you. Or you can roll with the punches, make a couple of jokes, and keep going, making it all about the audience's experience and learning, and not about your embarrassing blunder.

Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

June 25, 2017

Are you comparing your 3D self to a cardboard cutout?

Presentation Guru has published one of my articles this week on why it's harmful to compare ourselves to others, and how to stop.

"Will you ever be a great presenter if you don’t believe in your own ability and worth? A great deal of the advice around presentation skills is focused on actual presentation techniques. Crucial – without a doubt – but just how effective if the would-be presenter isn’t in the appropriate state of mind and is constantly comparing themselves – usually unfavourably – to others? In this article, speaking coach Lisa Braithwaite explains how important it is to adopt the right mindset in order to overcome fears of our own failings and make a positive impact."

Click on over to read the whole piece!

Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

April 16, 2017

It's hard to be human

Pretending to be a giant at the Christmas tree lot
Most of my clients aren't afraid of speaking. They're well past the point where they avoid speaking engagements or rush to get them over with. My clients are typically at a point in their level of experience where they want to better engage with their audiences, create more of an impact and leave their audiences with a greater transformation.

However, there's still this bothersome issue of "being human."

As comfortable as many of us are on stage, it's still hard to overcome this angst around appearing human, flawed, inadequate, deficient, or just plain foolish. We want to be liked, respected, admired, appreciated and valued. But if the audience finds out that we're "human..." uh oh.

This week, I was excited to meet one of my clients in person for the first time. I had enjoyed working with her over the phone and am lucky that she lives close enough that we could meet for lunch.

However, I had misgivings. She had told me how much personal development she experienced from coaching with me, and that she considered me a mentor. I was honored to have played such an important role in her growth. Now what if, when she met me in person, she discovered that the "real" me was totally different than that person who had coached her?

What if I acted like a goofball at lunch? What if she noticed that I bite my nails? What if she thought my outfit was weird? What if I dribbled food on my chin? What then?

So even though some of my core coaching is around being real, around not worrying what people think of us, and around ditching perfection in order to create connection, I still fall into this trap, too. I still face the impostor syndrome on a regular basis, and I still worry that people will discover that I'm human, flawed, inadequate, deficient, or just plain foolish.

And yes, I'm all of those things. So are you (from time to time). But you're also unique, one-of-a-kind, and completely different from every other human being in the world. And this is what makes your words, your stories and your message incredibly valuable as a speaker. This is what makes it imperative that you stop dwelling on being perfect, and just get up on stage and share your ideas with those who need to hear them.

I still worry sometimes that I won't be liked, respected, admired, appreciated and valued. It's a process.

However, many many years ago, I stopped changing myself to fit in and to be accepted based on others' opinions of what was "normal." I stopped adjusting my behaviors, my voice, my practices, my clothing, my silly faces, my hair, and my way of showing up in the world to make other people happy.

I'd rather be 100% who I am and maybe sometimes not fit in than always fit in and not be myself. How about you?

Are you afraid you might slip during a presentation and the audience will see the real you? Are you afraid of them discovering that you're human?

Check out my book, Presenting for Humans: Insights for Speakers on Ditching Perfection and Creating Connection, which is currently available for pre-order. Order your signed copy now and also get free tax and shipping, a downloadable workbook, and a dozen bonuses from my coaching, speaking and consulting colleagues!

Be real. Be you. Be human. 

It can be a legitimate struggle, but it's SO worth it.

Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

April 4, 2017

You don't have to go it alone

"How can I get my audience to ask more questions?"
"How do I create notes that are useful?"
"How do I make a more effective call to action?"
"How do I adjust my content into longer/shorter presentations?"
"How do I put together a speaker proposal for a conference?"
"How do I infuse more of my personality and personal style into my presentations?"
"How do I stop comparing myself to other speakers?"
"How do I keep from overwhelming my audience with information?"
"How do I judge my effectiveness with an audience?"
"How can I connect more emotionally with my audience and with the material I'm presenting?"

Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions? Or some that are similar? Wouldn't it be great if you could ask someone besides yourself?

Last year in the Speak to Engage Mentoring and Mastery program, these questions and many more were asked, and answered, by the participants on our monthly coaching and accountability calls, and during our visioning retreats where we created 6- and 12-month plans for speaking success.

When you're in business for yourself, or when you're a management-level professional, public speaking isn't a one-time thing you do at a board meeting, conference or networking event, and then it's over. It's a critical ongoing aspect of your job or your business, and a valuable tool for meeting people, putting your ideas out into the world, and becoming known as an authority. You do it again and again, you get good at it (hopefully), and you build a reputation.

When you're an entrepreneur or professional, cultivating your speaking skills and becoming visible as a speaker and expert is one of the absolute most effective ways to get customers and clients and become known as a thought leader.

But when you're the only person speaking for your business or your company, it can feel a bit lonely. It's hard to know what's going to work and what's not going to work. You don't have anyone to ask for advice about your ideas, your content or your delivery. And there's always something new that comes along—a high-stakes speaking engagement, a format you're not familiar with, a topic that's not your strong suit, an intimidating audience—that kicks you right out of your comfort zone.

This is what Speak to Engage Mentoring and Mastery is all about: Mastermind + coaching + mentoring + community + accountability = Success!

You have an intimate, confidential cohort: allies in achievement, partners in progress! Add in coaching sessions with me, visioning retreats to keep you on track, a StrengthsFinder® assessment to help you find your innate talents, and a whole slew of additional resources and bonuses (that are yours to keep forever) to keep your skills and confidence topped up, and you can't help but get the results you want from your speaking.

This program is customized to you, to your needs, to your concerns. We celebrate your wins and we tackle your struggles —together, in our small circle of likeminded presenters.

If it's important to you to grow your business or build visibility and credibility for your company; if it's important to you to face each speaking engagement with energy and excitement; if it's important to you to engage your audiences so they take action and move toward the transformation you offer, then I highly recommend making the investment and taking the time to develop your expertise, learn to do it right, and stand out above the other speakers who are just "getting by." You know who they are; they're the ones that put you to sleep at every event. That's not you.

Check out Speak to Engage Mentoring and Mastery here.

The program starts April 26. Early bird rate goes away April 19. There are four spots left. Are you in?

Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

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